Small Dude, a fictional short story, Part 1
With the greatest possible care, Virgil closed shut the tailgate of the Jeep J 10 pick-up truck. The double click of both well oiled latches, like an expected signal, drove the two small dogs inside the bed of the truck completely insane, and they started to dance to a choregraphy that only made sense to them. They jumped up, down and sideways, avoiding the mountain bike laying on the floor of the bed, overwhelmed with joy. They knew the drill and were well aware of the final destination. Virgil then wiped the gleaming paint of the tailgate with a wooly rag to remove all traces of handprints.
For about the fourth time, he checked the hitch of the trailer, making sure again that the trailer was properly secured to the pick-up. Then, he proceeded to verify the tension of the straps holding the little Boston-Whaler boat to the trailer. When finally satisfied with his final inspections, Virgil climbed into the cab and sat behind the steering wheel. That was another signal for the dogs, this time to jump through the open sliding rear window, trying to beat one another in the process, as to determine who would get to the front seat first. They were still frantic with excitement and continued their jumping on the bench seat :
- "Hey", said loudly with a commanding tone was the only word they needed to calm down, and with a sheepish guilty look, both animals settled immediately and sat quietly on the seat. Virgil started the engine, and for a minute, listened with satisfaction to the purring noise coming out of the freshly restored six cylinder motor.
Finally, the circus got on the road, Virgil pulling carefully out of his house's driveway onto the street where he lived, deserted at this time of the morning anyway. When he reached Highway 60, he turned left, heading West. The trip would take about an hour altogether, including the necessary pit -stop at the Hess gas station on the outskirt of town, where he would fill up the gas tank, check the oil and coolant levels, as well as the tire pressures of both the truck and the trailer. Then, he would get inside the store, hoping that Mandy would be the clerk on duty on that early Saturday morning. Mandy was nothing special to Virgil, except for the facts that she was good looking, wore extremely low cut shirts under her green uniform jacket, was always in a good mood and pleasant to deal with. She was working that morning, wearing a black tank top that hardly left any mystery regarding the size and shape of her breasts and nipples. After exchanging a few pleasant words with her, his unashamed eyes riveted to her mountainous area, Virgil paid for his gas, coffee and half-dozen doughnuts. Breakfast on the gas station parking lot was part of the ritual. He would set the box of doughnuts on the hood of the truck, give the dogs, now sitting very calmly in a rare moment of discipline, one pastry each, have two himself and keep the rest fot later. This morning turned into a special treat for Virgil, as curvaceous Mandy joined the gang on the parking lot during her cigarette break.
By now, reddish flames could be seen from the East, ripping apart a blanket of grey clouds. The man and his two dogs climbed back in the J 10 and on the road again they were. People often asked Virgil why he had given his two female dogs male names, Titus and Samson. His answer was always the same : "I don't think they're aware of that!" Which would normally end up the conversation, at least on that particular topic. What never started a conversation though, was the inscription on his black cotton baseball hat :"Dysfunctional veteran, leave me alone!" It worked ! Virgil was not the run of the mill type of man. Many a woman would say of him that he was "different", whatever that meant. His individuality made him the free form cookie that had been spared by the cookie cutter.
The naming of the dogs was a story in itself. After years of living alone, the bite of loneliness got to Virgil, and as he had dogs previously during the happy times of his childhood, the decision was easy to make to have another one. So, one day, he drove to the animal shelter, with the idea of getting ONE dog, preferably a rather large animal, something that could be referred to as a "guy's dog". Fate would have it differently ! Faced with a choice of about two hundred canine potential friends, Virgil started asking questions to the attendant, only to find out that some of the animals were scheduled to be euthaniized that very afternoon. That discovery immediately narrowed Virgil's choice. He couldn't save the whole pack, but figured that two small dogs would amount to one larger one, so instead of the elegant looking chocolate lab type of dog he had in mind, he inherited two scruffy, ugly, poorly mannered little things that could hardly pass for dogs, but sometimes, the heart has its reasons that reason ignores... So, he named them Titus and Samson, as a joke, in regard to their size and the fact that under any circumstances, they would remain harmless. And no, they are not aware that their names are actually male names. But obviously, that bothers some people...
The sun was getting higher in the sky, as Virgil could see in the rear view mirror of his truck. It was supposed to be a gorgeous week-end, according to the Weather Channel : no rain, lots of sun, "balmy" nights. A typical South Florida winter day !
At 32, and now unattached for a long time, Virgil was a very good looking man. He seemed to be the only one unaware of it, though. At about six foot tall, dark hair cut short, almost military style, muscular chest and arms, long legged, wearing a short and well trimmed beard, Virgil was many a woman's interpretation of the Marlboro man. A nice and always clean pair of jeans and untucked, unbuttoned plaid shirts over black tee-shirts was pretty much Virgil's uniform, these days, and that too would reinforce female perception of the Marlboro man. He was married once, to Vicky, whom he met in high school. They were getting along just fine. Until Virgil did join the Marines and went away to Irak for a full year. The marriage would have easily survived that. But about three months into Virgil's second tour in the Middle East, he received a "Dear Virgil" letter, informing him that Vicky had filed for divorce, AND was seeing someone else, some guy who, from her own words, would be there for her and care for her in a way she was expecting a husband to do. Virgil was fully aware the failed marriage was entirely his fault, no question about it ! He loved Vicky very much, and was always loyal to her. But when the war broke out, he fell victim of the military rethoric calling young Americans like him to join and serve their country. He was torn between his sense of duty and his love for his young bride, but in the end, during the irrational times following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and after a night of excessive drinking with the guys, a handful of them, still hung over, headed straight to the Marines recruiting center. Even though Virgil is very much a man to live with the consequences of his actions, the wound caused by Vicky's departure from his life has never healed properly. The other wounds, those he sustained during his second tour of duty, did heal as expected though, the physical part of if that is. The bullet that went through his chest missed both his lung and heart by less than one inch, so it would be fair to say it was a close call. But Virgil would always play down the story by saying :" My number wasn't up".
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns